How Much Should You Carry?
By Steve Gillman
If you are carrying twenty-five pounds, you aren't going lightweight.
Maybe I just make up these standards, but I try to be reasonable.
I regularly backpack with less than fifteen pounds total weight.
Most people can go backpacking carrying less than twenty pounds
for a three-day trip, and less than thirty for a week-long trip.
First of all, throw out those pack weight/body weight formulas.
If you want to enjoy lightweight backpacking, you'll never be
close to what they say you can carry anyhow. It isn't important
how much you can carry, only how much you need
to carry to be comfortable.
Lightweight Backpacking Isn't Masochism
The biggest reason to go light is to enjoy the trip more.
So you don't want to leave crucial things behind or otherwise
make yourself miserable, just so you can call it lightweight
A good rule is this: Go as light as you can without sacrificing
those things that are important to you (safety items, a good
book, a bottle of rum?). It isn't about giving things up. It
is about carefully considering what you really need to have a
good time, and replacing heavier things with lighter things.
If you really need an inflatable pad, you can get rid of that
2-pounder and buy a 13-ounce Thermarest Prolite 3. My Western
Mountaineeringsleeping bag weighs only 17 ounces and it has kept
me warmer than any 3 or 4 pound bag I've had. Set aside your
lightest sweater, socks, hat, etc, for your next lightweight
backpacking trip. When you can afford to, buy one of the big
three (pack, tent, bag) because this is where you can save the
most weight. Going light is usually expensive for us devotees,
but I've gone 110 miles in seven days (no blisters) with $7 running
shoes, so you don't have to spend a lot.
How Much Weight?
With the proper equipment and strategies, you probably will
be comfortable and safe with less than twenty pounds on your
back for the weekend. Watch yourself and learn what you can.
What do you actually use, and which items brought you the most
comfort? Pay attention and you can leave some things behind next
time, replace others with lighter items, and still have everything
you need. That's lightweight backpacking at its best.
For an example of a really lightweight trip, go to:
Lightweight Backpacking List: 3 Days Under 10 Pounds
To learn some of the options available for each item, see:
Lighter, Lightest: An Ultralight Backpacking Gear List.